Reducing Our Environmental Impact

Reducing Our Environmental Impact

You may have seen the headlines that global temperatures have hit record highs each of the last three years. There is little doubt that global climate change is real and accelerating. The signs have been there for decades: When I worked in the Cascade Mountains on my Ph.D. in geology, I noticed how much smaller the glaciers in the Cascades were than shown on topographic maps – which had been created in the late 1950s.
For my Ph.D., I studied past climate changes, so I know that the science is complex, but it should be obvious that burning all the carbon, which was stored inside the earth over hundreds of millions of years, is not a good idea. So what should we do about it? In the absence of a coordinated response, we each can reduce our “carbon footprint” as much as possible. That is what we’ve done at Compass and Bicycle Quarterly. Here are a few things we do to minimize our emissions:

  • Shipping to our customers: Probably our greatest environmental impact is shipping Compass products to our customers. Over the last year, we switched from Priority Mail to FedEx Ground as our preferred shipper – from airplanes to more fuel-efficient trucks or trains. When you place an order anywhere, it’s worth thinking about: “Next Day” sounds tempting, but “Ground” creates much less carbon emissions.
  • Shipping products from our suppliers: We choose ocean shipping whenever possible. It requires planning ahead, but it’s also less expensive, which allows us to keep our products affordable.
  • Durable products: Manufacturing things inevitably creates emissions. We make products that last a very long time, which spreads the impact over more miles and more years of use. Our customers buy fewer products and enjoy them longer, which reduces the emissions.
  • Careful design and manufacturing: A significant portion of products never leave the factories, because the design is flawed or they get rejected by quality control. We carefully design our products and work with the best manufacturers to reduce this type of waste (and the associate emissions) to an absolute minimum.
  • Office/warehouse: 80% of our employees commute by bike or bus. We turn down the thermostat in our office and warehouse to reduce our emissions further.
  • Travel: For many of us, airplane trips represent the biggest carbon emissions. For each passenger mile, airplanes consume as much fuel as a small car with two occupants, but airplanes fly over huge distances. At Compass, we combine trips as much as possible. We fly to Japan or France not only to visit our suppliers, but also work on Bicycle Quarterly features and to visit family and friends. We try to take fewer, longer trips rather than fly all over the world multiple times. When traveling in the U.S. (and not riding our bikes), we take the train when possible, such as during our recent trip to San Francisco. Trains not only generate the least emissions, but they also are a much more relaxing way to travel.
  • Ride from home: Whenever possible, we start our bike rides at our back door. For us, there is no need to start up a car when we just want to ride our bikes. With bikes that are fully equipped for riding long distances, the “ride to the ride” is part warm-up, part meditation and part anticipation.

As cyclists who enjoy venturing off the beaten path, we love this world as much as anybody. We try to do our part to preserve the joys we know so well.

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Comments (49)

  • Matt

    Have you thought about offering a digital version of the magazine? It would certainly reduce the foot print both in physical media and shipping, and would be massively enticing for us overseas readers for whom shipping is very expensive!
    I do still prefer physical print for reading when possible but shipping for back issues can be almost as much as the magazine itself so I’d be more inclined to go digital for both cost and environmental reasons.

    January 24, 2017 at 5:59 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      A digital edition doesn’t necessarily cause less emissions. Data centers use between 2 and 5% of all the energy consumed in the U.S. It makes sense to go to digital publishing for newspapers that you read once, and then discard. But beautiful publications like Bicycle Quarterly, which you’ll probably keep forever, are much better in print. That way, the impact is done once the magazine arrives at your doors, whereas “in the cloud”, the servers must keep running forever. And BQ amounts to just four magazines a year – it’s not a huge impact by any means.
      There are other reasons: Cost – we are too small to administer digital subscriptions, and farming it out is very expensive. Most of all, it simply wouldn’t be possible to recreate Bicycle Quarterly’s beautiful photography on-screen in a file size that you could still download.

      January 27, 2017 at 7:28 am
  • Erik

    Bell at least reference the temp incline data if you’re going to get on board with the movement. Lots of adjectives are used on this inclining accelerating whatever temperature trend.
    The Independent has it here in the third paragraph at 0.01C, which is actually well within the margin or errror of global measurement, which includes a large portion of estimation.
    Your conclusions to ride bikes more still hold.

    January 24, 2017 at 5:59 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You are right, the big story isn’t just “record every year”, but “every year now among the hottest ever”. I added a link to the news article.

      January 24, 2017 at 7:59 am
  • AC Heintz

    I’d like to see the plastic wrapper over the magazine go away.

    January 24, 2017 at 6:49 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We’ve tried sending magazines without a plastic wrapper, but too many got damaged or lost. Printing more magazines and sending them as replacements also causes emissions, so in the end, the wrapper probably is not just “carbon neutral”, but beneficial.
      Many big companies like to make their packaging look “environmental”, but for small items, it’s mostly symbolic – the real impact lies elsewhere. That said, all Compass packaging is designed to be minimal and made from recycled materials as much as possible. For example, the custom foam corners we use for book shipping are made from recycled materials, and they minimize the packaging of the books compared to bubble wrap. (They also minimize damage…)

      January 24, 2017 at 8:14 am
      • Andy Stow

        One time I received just the plastic wrapper, with an apology sticker from the postal service.

        January 26, 2017 at 7:55 am
      • AC Heintz

        I get about 6-7 different magazines aside from BQ. None are wrapped and I cannot remember the last time one of my magazines was damaged. If you want something to arrive in perfect condition (is perfection needed?), perhaps the wrapper is essential. I’d be happy with a small adhesive sticker to keep things together, but even that seems unnecessary. it’s a crummy feeling to throw away the the first thing that I tear off the magazine. I could at least re-use/recycle the paper envelope. I think your carbon neutral argument is not very strong- magazines can be damaged with or without a plastic wrapper.

        January 30, 2017 at 4:42 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Perhaps your postal carriers are more careful than mine. About half the magazines I subscribe to arrive damaged. In the past, we have tried sending magazines without wrappers, and with just a few stickers holding the pages together. With both, we had a lot of complaints, and we mailed out a lot of replacement magazines. We also used paper envelopes for a long time, with less damage. However, more magazines got lost when we sent them in plain envelopes. Apparently, postal carriers thought they were junk mail and didn’t really take care to deliver them. The plastic wrapper is the most effective solution. I’d be surprised if the four wrappers every year significantly change the amount of garbage for you.
          Most of our readers treat each Bicycle Quarterly like a book – something to keep and enjoy time and again. For them, getting the magazine in good condition is important.

          January 30, 2017 at 7:02 am
  • Frank

    Thanks for the article. I too ride door to door, even if the first kilometers until reaching the countryside are less pleasant, and gave up another sport that demanded too much car travel.

    January 24, 2017 at 11:15 am
  • James

    Great post! This is the first time I’ve read something dealing with climate change that got me excited to try and make a difference. BTW, I’m currently working on a Ph.D., but not in a climate related area.

    January 24, 2017 at 11:42 am
    • James

      Meant to say Ph.D. in geology

      January 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm
  • Doug Lowrie

    Energy usage, let us see: On the residential side all you have to do is count to 12 and you can get there pretty quickly. On the commercial side not so much. Working on the built environment at a large university one realizes its not always as simple as it seems. Most of our energy is spend heating/cooling inhabited space with light fixtures. If we all do just a few simple things it will make a difference. Example; Three to four times a week ride your trainer at home instead of driving to the gym. We all know what to do I need not go on. Recycling and adaptive reuse I will leave for others to comment. The battle for a sane national energy policy is just beginning.

    January 24, 2017 at 12:16 pm
    • Winston W Lumpkins IV

      Or ride your bike to the gym.

      January 25, 2017 at 12:40 pm
      • Andy Stow

        Or just ride your bike.

        January 26, 2017 at 8:00 am
  • Heather

    Thanks for your conscientious efforts and actions. Compass Cycles and Bicycle Quarterly Press already are a model of sustainability without having to say a word. Quality long lasting components, encouragement of reusing old stock components and offering the small bits that tend to get lost to make them functional again. Promoting new custom bicycles that should last for decades and more but knowing very well most people are already riding older bicycles. Beautiful high end frames rescued from dark garages and neglect.
    People are freaking out about this new game in the face of hard science and never ending worst case future estimations happening in rapid succession. There is much talk of distress here in Canada. I ride my bike people thank me for it as if I am doing a public service and consider me ‘brave’ but refuse to even consider cycling themselves. As an alternative to cycling, I will walk the 12km round trip into the village as a hike/errand run through trails and back roads. I do not have a car and barely ever travel(though I wish I could). Even taking the bus is a rare event because it is more boring than the inconvenience of riding in bad weather or a longer distance. Cycling is amazing and egalitarian. Even on days when I wish I had a car that ran on unicorn tears, I marvel about how much I love cycling. My bike is in dire need of a mid winter overhaul and terrible to ride, but I still love it!
    As for plastic wrapping, there are the biodegradable plastics bags…but they can be expensive and might break down before you use them. My only hope is all that stuff I take to the recycling depot gets recycled!

    January 24, 2017 at 1:32 pm
  • Emil

    One of the main reasons why I do long distance cycling is the environment. I don’t even have a drivers license so all my transportation is by bike.
    You’ve been a great inspiration and have provided excellent guidance on how to make bikes more practical and comfortable while still being fast.
    The planet needs more long distance cyclists 🙂

    January 24, 2017 at 4:15 pm
  • Jason Hewerdine

    Unfortunately you and your readership (of which I am one) aren’t I believe the target audience in order to generate the change in consumption required. Nor are the choices you have outlined. There are millions of people in developing countries yet to enjoy their benefits of a global market and development driven by cheap energy – just like the US from the 1950’s onward.
    World economics is the driver while geology is useful to track the impact.
    I would suggest an argument of living with less is likely to be just as ‘effective’ as opposed to continued spending but in a ‘greener’ way.
    $3000-5000 bicycles are but items of first world indulgence (and I’m guilty but not as much as some 😊) – and they are a part of a system that does not accomodate those masses yet to live the good life.
    Perhaps a contemporary phd study on how to live with less might prove as revolutionary as the benefits of wider bicycle tyres.
    Jason Hewerdine
    Gold Coast

    Sent from my iPhone

    January 24, 2017 at 6:06 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      For me, “live with less” is buying (and making) very few great bikes, rather than owning a lot of mediocre ones. The environmental impact is the same or greater when you buy a $ 150 bike at Walmart as it is when you buy a custom bike from a craftsman that will last decades. I have yet to retire a bike with less than 50,000 miles on it, and even the “retired” ones are still rideable, it’s just that they aren’t suitable for the riding I now enjoy. The bikes we promote don’t go out of fashion or get superseded by newer models – my “new” bike, the René Herse, is 6 years old, and still totally up-to-date.

      January 24, 2017 at 8:14 pm
  • julianactive

    Our rampant consumerism and trying to bring people out of poverty to consume more is a two edge sword to say the least.
    Sad to see the monster that our throw away society has become. Chasing the cheapest price means it will only end up in the landfill sooner rather than later.
    I applaud your efforts and your willingness to lessen your impact and to take criticism in the light of global warming being such a hot topic (so to speak!)
    Taking care of our world is such an obvious thing but you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.
    Many of us ride our bikes to escape the world’s madness and to enjoy the beauty of nature and the outdoors.

    January 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm
  • randonneefolle

    Thank you for an excellent post, Jan. I would love to do all my trips by bike instead of flying, but sadly, I am not sufficiently quick to justify converting my business trips into long distance training rides 😉 I do try to take the train when possible, though – sadly, that is not often the case.
    As regards your own efforts, have you considered using renewable electricity, probably photovoltaic panels and a battery, for the Compass commercial buildings? I am always wondering how quickly the reduction in greenhouse emissions offsets the environmental impact of the production of such installations, but believe that it is worth looking into.

    January 24, 2017 at 11:42 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Our warehouse and office don’t use much electricity. Most of all, Seattle’s electricity comes from water power, which already is renewable. And since the U.S. doesn’t really have a national electric grid, adding solar panels wouldn’t do much good. (Apart from the fact that our only “real” electricity use is for heating in winter, when it’s too dark for solar panels to work.)
      Regarding business trips, I often wonder how many of those are necessary, and whether they couldn’t be scheduled so that many are combined on the same trip. That is what we do at Compass, and not only does it reduce emissions, it also saves a lot of money.

      January 25, 2017 at 7:51 am
  • Archetype

    Hmmm, I think Paul Homewood would have a lot to say on this subject. I am not thoroughly convinced about any so-called ‘science’ from the Left or the Right. The issue has been WAY too politicized. In fact, to the point that there is hardly any CLEAR cut evidence of either argument. Paul is one of the few who cuts through the BS. I don’t buy into any alarmist fears or claims. However, I do believe in conservation. Reducing pesticides, chemicals in general and overall air/water pollution. I believe in energy alternatives as well, but fossil fuels are still relevant and will be for a long time to come, that’s just realty.
    As long as there are billions to made by the energy bankster cartel, the government will not do much to seek wide-spread use of alternatives. What I have a very big disdain for, is the politics of climate change. I loath left wingers and right wingers equally. I loath the government in general as well. I do my small part to conserve energy and resources but as long as we have a bought & sold government and foreign nations polluting like mad, it isn’t going to make a big difference. (but if it makes us “feel” better…as an illusion…so be it)
    “There’s number in nations…” You want real change? Then it’s going to have come with a big price. And I ain’t talkin’ bout money either…

    January 25, 2017 at 8:26 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Anybody who’s read Bicycle Quarterly knows that I am the first to doubt the “scientific consensus”, whether it’s about narrow tires and stiffer frames being faster, more trail making a bike more stable, etc. But as a scientist who studied climate change, I know that the earth is warming. It’s real, and easy to document.
      I also know that predictions of climate change are fraught with difficulty. The earth’s climate is a complex system, and it doesn’t change uniformly. Just think of El Niño, which causes drought in some areas, flooding in others… For my Ph.D., I compared glacier advances at the end of the last ice age on Mt. Rainier with those in other parts of the world. Conclusion: Same climate change seems to have occurred (the fluctations occur at the same time), but in the Pacific NW, it was drier (glaciers retreated), whereas in Europe, it was just colder (glaciers advanced). Back then, that was as controversial as our cycling-related research, but 15 years on, it has become widely accepted.
      The main point is that if there are doubts about the exact nature of climate change, it seems like a bad idea to burn up all the carbon that has been stored in the earth over hundreds of millions of years. Even if we have only a 1% chance that it turns out to be a disaster that ends human civilization, we shouldn’t do it! The risk is too great. (You wouldn’t ride a bike if you had a 1% of dying while doing so!)
      The actual risk is much greater than 1%. We can argue whether it’s 30% or 80%, but either way, it’s a pretty dire situation. And so we should do what we can to prevent the worst.

      January 25, 2017 at 9:58 am
      • Winston W Lumpkins IV

        Amen. That’s been my argument all along. Even if there was still serious scientific debate, it’s time to change now, just in case. No short term gain is worth destroying the planet for our children.

        January 25, 2017 at 12:44 pm
      • Archetype

        I agree Jan, we should do what we can, within a reasonable expectation. But trying to get our so-called leaders to implement common sense changes is another thing! Thanks for thoughtful reply.

        January 25, 2017 at 1:47 pm
    • verbekeerik

      It is frightening to read how, in the US, oil companies have succeeded to generate doubt around global scientific consensus. The fact that you see an blog like the Paul Homewood one as a valuable source of scientific analysis is just terrifying.There is nothing political about Climate change, nor is it left of right. The approach to solve it, or just live with it: that is a political choice, but the facts are there and anyone claiming otherwise just hasn’t done any research on a credible level.

      January 27, 2017 at 5:27 am
      • Archetype

        Well, to what is more frightening, is a response like yours. Extreme and Progressive Leftist. Not at all objective. Paul Homewood has as much or more credentials and understanding than most of these so-called Climate Scientists, shilling for governments. Perhaps you should study up on Mr Homewood before taking such a radical biased stance. 😉

        January 28, 2017 at 1:53 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I had never heard of Paul Homewood, so I did “study up” on him, or at least tried to. I could find no credentials. Even on his web site, he just states “Bringing some sanity to the climate change debate”. I’d expect at least an affiliation, like “professor of xyz and so-and-so university” and a short list of articles in peer-reviewed journals.
          Homewood’s modus operandi appears to be picking one piece of data – like that the summer of 1976 remains the hottest on record – and using that as “evidence” to disprove that global climate isn’t warming.
          It reminds me of the people who used to say “My grandma smoked a pack a day, and she died at age 97 when she fell down the stairs” or “My buddy was in a car accident, and he was thrown from the car to safety. He would have died if he’d worn a seatbelt.” In both of those cases, that may actually be true, and everybody is glad the grandma lived that long and that the buddy survived the crash. But in the big picture, those individual cases don’t prove anything. You need a lot of data to show correlations, and those data show that smoking reduces life expectancy, and that seatbelts increase your chance of surviving car accidents. A few outliers don’t change that.
          Climate change “skeptics” also like to point to vast conspiracies because scientists “manipulated” their data. What they are referring to are totally normal adjustments. In BQ‘s tire tests, we had to adjust for temperature changes, because tires roll faster when it’s warmer, and we tested so many tires that we couldn’t fit them all in one day. Somebody like Paul Homewood might come and say “It’s all a conspiracy, because Tire 1 actually was faster than Tire 2, but you manipulated the data so that it appeared slower.” When in fact, we tested Tire 1 on a hot day and Tire 2 on a cold day, so while the raw measurements show Tire 1 being faster, it actually would be slower if we tested both at the same time. Key with all these adjustments is that they are based on actual measurements (we tested the same tire at different temperatures and calculated how temperature affected performance), that they are tested, and that the methods are peer-reviewed. (Both BQ‘s tire tests and the climate science showing warming over the last decades meet those standards.)
          However, we are getting pretty far from bicycles here. I think we can all agree that it is prudent to reduce our emissions, which has the added benefit of reducing our costs, so we can keep Compass’ products relatively affordable.

          January 28, 2017 at 4:48 pm
        • verbekeerik

          1. I did check Mr. Homewood before writing this response. The man has no bio, no peer reviewed papers (actually, I haven’t found any paper at all), and doesn’t appear to have any understanding of climate effects on a global scale.
          2. It is you again who claims science should be politicized. You could try to change my opinion by discussing with facts, but no, you choose to declare me an extreme and progressive leftist, while being entirely unfamiliar with my opinions on any other theme than climate change. However that claim allows you to discard any other statement I or any other person who has spent a serious amount of time researching the topic.

          January 30, 2017 at 4:20 am
    • Tim Evans

      The most obvious difference I saw between the US and Japan were the small, by our standards, homes in Japan. I’ve never been to Germany.

      January 27, 2017 at 4:27 pm
  • marmotte27

    I don’t know if my comment has been lost. I wanted to mention the Transition Initiatives:, which in my opinion represent the biggest chance we have yet of turning things around.
    There’s one in Seattle: and thousands of others around the world.

    January 25, 2017 at 9:41 pm
  • David T.

    Carbon emissions per capita are much higher, 10-20x, in developed countries compared to developing countries.
    It actually gets funny to hear people talk about how they are “trying” to do things like make fewer flights, but never measuring their actual emissions compared to others. What it means is paying lip service to a problem; it is interesting there always seems to be a moralistic undertone to it too.

    January 26, 2017 at 6:32 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You are absolutely right: On average, Americans consume more and pollute more than most people on the planet. To me, that means we have an additional responsibility, first, not to mess things up for those who are too poor to have caused the problem, and second, to serve as examples as other societies are developing. Right now, they see movies with huge houses, huge cars, etc., and try to emulate what they perceive to be a desirable lifestyle.
      If we each look at where we cause the greatest emissions and reduce that, then we’ll have a measurable impact. Your link shows that Germany and Japan each have about half the per-capita emissions of the U.S., yet their standard of living is no lower than ours. (In fact, their life expectancies are significantly higher.) If we lived like average Germans or average Japanese, we’d emit half as much as our average fellow citizens. That seems very doable – in fact, we should be able to go quite a bit beyond that.
      I also agree that many companies do what seems easy, but which is of questionable value, like use paper bags instead of plastic. In our case, lip service would be to install a single solar panel on the roof, but to ship everything via airplanes. To ride our bikes 2 miles to work when it’s not raining (<1000 miles/year), but rack up 50,000 frequent flyer miles.
      This blog has more than 20,000 readers, and many serve as "opinion leaders" in their communities. If we each do what we can and lead by example, we'll have a measurable impact.

      January 26, 2017 at 7:32 am
      • John

        “If we lived like average Germans or average Japanese, we’d emit half as much as our average fellow citizens”
        How do they live? I’m not arguing, but would like to understand the differences in German and Japanese culture compared to Americans lifestyle and/or beliefs that could reduce emissions beyond riding a bicycle or taking the train. Could you please explain how we could do this beyond with the current energy and transportation infrastructure (or lack there of) in the U.S.?

        January 26, 2017 at 9:24 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I can think of three main things that are different in Europe and Japan:
          – much greater reliance on public transportation, so fewer car emissions (also more fuel-efficient cars)
          – higher standards of building, so much less emissions for heating and cooling
          – a culture of quality, with “consumers” buying less and keeping it longer
          And finally, a greater awareness of the environment. You see fewer overheated houses and offices, where people wear T-shirts in winter.
          I agree that using public transit is hard to do without infrastructure. And yet I am surprised how many people drive even in Seattle, when there are buses that take only a little longer. As to buildings, the first thing after moving Compass was to seal all the cracks around the doors and windows of our warehouse. A few cans of expanding foam have reduced our heating significantly. The final one, about buying long-term quality, it’s something that makes sense anyhow. The often-repeated mantra “The most expensive tools are cheap ones” becomes obvious when you use things daily.

          January 26, 2017 at 10:41 am
      • Matthew J

        An interesting point about German carbon savings is that despite most of the nation being further north than the continental United States, Germany has more residential solar panels per capita than we, despite so many of us living in deserts.
        With Tesla coming out with home battery walls there is even less of an excuse for the lack of solar power use among US households.
        We are at best being penny wise and pound foolish. Most of us are simply oblivious.

        January 26, 2017 at 12:27 pm
  • Andy Stow

    Another point to make on the economy of nice bicycles is that the upfront cost is so little of the total cost, when you keep a bike long-term. For instance, the bicycle I use the most I bought used for $780 (which my wife thought was a lot of money for a bicycle.) Now after just 2.5 years and over 8000 miles, I’ve put more than that into the bike just in tires and consumable drivetrain parts. The initial cost is now less than 25% of my total cost of ownership.

    January 26, 2017 at 8:08 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      That is my experience, too. When I was in high school, I got a Peugeot 10-speed, which then was considered a “good” bike by most. But as I started riding it seriously in college, everything broke or wore out, and not only did I have to spend much money on replacements, but I also spent almost every night fixing my bike, so I could ride to class the next day. At least I learned much about working on bikes that way!

      January 26, 2017 at 9:02 am
  • J. W. Roberts

    I think the most environmentally friendly way to ship products is by regular United States Postal Service. They are already going to nearly every address in the United States on a daily basis except Sunday so no special trip is needed to bring items to customers. Federal Express and UPS have to make special trips to deliver packages.

    January 26, 2017 at 10:04 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t really offer ground shipping any longer. Priority Mail goes by airplane. Realistically, in most areas, you have UPS, FedEx and the USPS all covering the entire area. It’s not like the UPS truck is making a trip from their depot to your house just to deliver one package.
      What I’ve wanted to see for years is the USPS switch to electric vans. Their urban routes rarely are longer than 5 miles, so the limited range wouldn’t be a problem. And imagine what would have happened if the Postal Service had ordered 10,000 electric vans: It would have jump-started the industry and made the U.S. a leader in electric cars. Fortunately, we had Tesla do it instead – one of the bright spots coming out of the big recession. (Tesla used government money and built their cars in a closed GM factory.)

      January 26, 2017 at 10:29 am
      • B. Carfree

        I don’t think your comment about no ground service by USPS is quite right on two counts. Number one, when I ship items on the West Coast via USPS Priority, much of it goes by truck, not plane. Assuming that is correct, perhaps you can still ship to PNW addresses by USPS. (I ask because receiving UPS or FedEx packages in my city is problematic due to our huge homeless-driven theft problem.)
        Number two, doesn’t the USPS Parcel Select shipping option go by ground? I was under the impression that was the major difference between Parcel Select and Priority.
        You probably already know about it, but there is a partnership between USPS and FedEx in which FedEx trucks the packages to the post office nearest the delivery point and then hands them over to the post office for the final delivery. It is usually cheaper than either USPS Priority or FedEx Ground, so it’s a win all around other than the small shipping time increase. I believe they call this FedEx SmartPost.

        January 26, 2017 at 3:51 pm
    • Matthew J

      Good point, Jan. Torquey electric engines are perfect for start and stop driving. Add regenerative braking and increase the mileage.

      January 26, 2017 at 12:29 pm
  • B. Carfree

    I wonder what temperature you set the thermostat in your warehouse to. Back in the 1970’s, President Jimmy Carter asked everyone to lower their thermostats to 65-8 F. Do you set yours in the Carter zone, or do you go lower?
    I must admit to being pleasantly surprised at a post on climate change from you. I appreciate you doing this and understand that it takes a bit of courage to do so in today’s crazy (political) climate. Considering the number of times you have bucked incorrect conventional wisdoms, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
    And I totally agree that travelling by train is very relaxing. Even though our west coast service is a bit sparse, when I go back and forth between Eugene and Davis I often can’t ride my bike both ways, so I take the train for one leg most of the time and just love it.

    January 26, 2017 at 4:06 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      President Jimmy Carter asked everyone to lower their thermostats to 65-8 F. Do you set yours in the Carter zone, or do you go lower?

      If we tried to heat a warehouse to 65°F, we’d be bankrupt sooner than we’d worry about global climate change! Our settings are much lower (depending on outside temp), and we put a small radiant heater next to Clark’s shipping desk. Our offices aren’t much warmer, but as cyclists, we have plenty of wool layers that keep us warm.

      January 26, 2017 at 5:32 pm
    • Matthew J

      I keep my apartment thermostat at 65 in the winter. The body adapts quickly. When visiting other people’s homes I tend to feel overheated.
      The larger challenge are Midwestern summers. So far I’ve managed to resist turning on the a.c. There are times when the heat and humidity come close to overwhelming. Night time cool down is much weaker than even when I was a child.

      January 27, 2017 at 5:59 am
  • J.W. Roberts

    Jan says…”It’s not like the UPS truck is making a trip from their depot to your house just to deliver one package.”
    Well, when you live in the country and the nearest Federal express or UPS distribution Center is 36 miles away from your farm then yes the two other carriers besides the USPS do you have to make a special trip. not all of us cyclists live in an urban area (thank goodness!). Yet, the postal service comes by six out of seven days a week. Also, a review of the USPS website indicates they still do offer ground shipping. Have they stopped offering this service recently?

    January 26, 2017 at 4:10 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      For commercial customers, the USPS strongly encourages Priority Mail with their rates. Your case of living from the UPS distribution center is interesting. Please make sure to select USPS shipping when you order from us. We still offer it – it’s just not the default any longer.

      January 26, 2017 at 5:33 pm
  • Timothy Nielsen

    The quick slap on the back for batteries and high-zoot electric items might not be so quick if the whole cost is taken into account (not fiscally). It’s mostly a question of when you start the clock, so to speak. If you even go and see the raw materials being extracted to support the addmitedly nifty systems I assure you this comment will not seem so out of place in this choir-filled hall. I appreciate this thread and the conversation thus far. Thanks all, see you on the road someday.

    January 26, 2017 at 7:30 pm

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